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Teaching with TypeWright

Tonya Howe

Marymount University

What is TypeWright?

by Tonya Howe and Danielle Spratt
TypeWright is a tool created in part by the people who put together, which provides a place for scholars and students to gather around and work with the materials in Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, regardless of whether your institution has a subscription. Students and scholars can use TypeWright to correct the faulty OCR behind the ECCO content scans, so that the material can be mined more effectively. Once a text has been corrected, the editors can receive their own copy of the fulltext in basic XML markup, to do with what they please; it goes into the public domain after this editing work has been done. describes its significance, pointing out that text versions of PDF or image-based scans of eighteenth-century materials are essential for scholars; "they are what enables full-text searching, datamining, preserving, and curating texts of historical importance. Right now, the text running behind the page images of these texts has been mechanically typed, leaving behind errors that need to be corrected by human eyes and hands."

Once you have set up your account, you can access TypeWright from If you log in to and have joined our group, go to the MY 18TH tab to access your items, groups, and more.

Anne, Countess of Chesterfield, Blogging, after Thomas Gainesborough; CC BY 2.0 by Mike Licht
Anne, Countess of Chesterfield, Blogging, after Thomas Gainesborough

Teaching with TypeWright

The House of Blogs, after Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin; CC BY 2.0 by Mike Licht
The House of Blogs, after Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin
TypeWright is an easy tool for students to learn, and it is useful in assignments that foreground, among others, topics like service learning, public knowledge, digital humanities, and material culture. Some outcomes for working with TypeWright include:
  • identifying the parts of an early printed book, the peculiarities of 18th-century typeface, and the choices characteristic of 18th-century printing techniques across genres
  • understanding the role of the book in the generation of public knowledge
  • connecting the history of publication to contemporary digital distribution techniques
  • working collaboratively to model the collaborative production early printed matter
  • identifying significant differences between individual editions and/or printings, including contemporary mass printed editions
  • noticing how typographic details like italics, drop capitals, small caps generate meaning 
  • applying basic markup to capture typographic details

Common Pitfalls

Whatever your assignment looks like, students will likely encounter certain pitfalls. Learning what they are will be helpful as you develop your assignments and plan your workshops.

  • If students editing the same document, the system will lag noticeably.
  • Students cannot add items to a discussion group; they can collect them themselves, but if you are working with a classroom or a group in TypeWright, only the administrator can add items for editing to the group. All items must be collected before they can be added to a group for editing, or to an exhibit.
  • Creating an exhibit and linking to resources: if your institution doesn't have ECCO, this can be a problem, because the default link to a collected item is usually the ECCO face of it. You can get around this by adding links to URLs like this: (Note that in the exhibit creation interface, however, the linking feature is a bit buggy; above, I selected the URL and inserted an external link, and you can see where the link was actually placed). 
Assignment creation and group work:
  • If a group of students is working on editing a single item, they should identify how the group will function. Will individuals edit specific page ranges? Will you require that multiple eyes look at the same pages? 
  • Editors will often add errors to the data unintentionally. It may be helpful to have one student edit, and another, double-check her work.
  • Students will have questions about the medial s, signatures, catchwords, page numbers, running headers, spacing, dashes, punctuation, ligatures, "misspellings," and illegible letters or portions of words. 18thConnect has identified some guidelines, but they are not exhaustive. To what extent will you provide rules, and where will you allow students to identify their own editorial practices? Why? The"optional markup guide" has useful information about noting formal features.
  • How much of the typographic detail do you want students to capture in their correction, which can be enhanced with basic markup? Do you want students to capture drop caps? Italics? Small caps? Extended spacing? There are style sheets that can help with this; in the past, TypeWright has encouraged the use of the Donne Variorum markup, though an "optional markup guide" now exists. We suggest you examine these very carefully and determine how and why you will ask your students to employ them.
  • The administrators at TypeWright can be very helpful in the event data goes missing, gets corrupted, or if you just have questions about how something works. Use their knowledge by emailing or using @18thConnect on twitter. 
Other pitfalls to be aware of:
  • If a line is ignored or not captured, students can add lines (and delete them) or extend the red box indicating where the text is. Sometimes the red box doesn't extend properly (this seems to be an intermittent problem, perhaps related to operating system). 
  • Some texts and kinds of texts may present different difficulties. Texts incorporating Latin and Greek characters or abbreviations are especially challenging, as are texts using blackletter; legal documents, accounting tables and other lists, etc.. Look before you have your students leap
  • Poetry may generate questions about hypenation, extended/wrapped lines, odd or unexpected spacing, indentation, distinguishing between indented and wrapped lines, line numbering, and so on. Oh, and footnotes. We can't forget footnotes! 
  • Drama may also generate questions concerning the above, as well as truncated speaker identifications, centered or aligned stage directions, and so on. 
  • Many page images are poorly-scanned, making the OCR virtually non-existent; you'll want to check students' chosen sources for these kinds of problems in advance, or have them skim through the document on Google Books to identify potential problems. If you do skim through Google Books, be sure you're looking at the exact same edition and printing! The ESTC and the 18th Century Book Tracker can be a big help here. 
  • What if there are images in the text? Does a typographic ornament qualify as an image? When do you report a page? Note that 18thConnect has guidelines on some of these questions. 
Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos Blogging, after Franciso de Goya y Lucientes; CC BY 2.0 by Mike Licht
Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos Blogging, after Franciso de Goya y Lucientes

Some texts to work with

Food Blogger, after James Gillray; CC BY 2.0 by Mike Licht
Food Blogger, after James Gillray
Poems on Several Occasions, by Lady Mary Chudleigh:

The Busie Body
, by Susanna Centlivre: 

A Dictionary of the English Language
, by Samuel Johnson: 

, by Charlotte Lennox (2nd ed, corrected): 

Epistle to Arbuthnot, 
by Alexander Pope:

History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Duncan Campbell, by [Daniel Defoe] William Bond:

Useful Links

CC BY 2.0 by Mike Licht
Tavern Interior with WiFi, after John S.C. Schaak